The core issue arising from Alex Salmond’s deceptive presentation of a letter on Scottish membership of the EU at yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood is less about the act of deception than about the First Minister’s judgment.
Having already been shown to have told a direct lie on national television about having legal advice on this same matter – and seriously undermined his credibility in so doing – this was one issue on which the First Minister should have known beyond doubt that he could not afford a second dodgy swerve.
But he couldn’t help it.
And of course someone realised that the letter he had brandished in the chamber and subtly suggested had come to him, had in fact been on some SNP website in response to a general enquiry by a person unknown – and printed off for the occasion.
Mr Salmond is known as a practised gambler [on the gee gees]. This instinct to take a punt and hope it comes off is clearly central to his personality.
In sober reality, all of the evidence demonstrates that the First Minister is taking another such punt on persuading people to vote Yes in next September’s independence referendum, using whatever arguments and offers he thinks will do the trick – regardless of whether the arguments have any substance or the offers are affordable and deliverable.
In his direct lie to Andrew Neil on having legal advice on Scottish membership of the EU, it emerged that Mr Salmond had not even asked for such advice – but was nevertheless spending public money on a high level legal action to protect the confidentiality of advice that did not exist to be protected.
That is hard evidence on just how far the First Minister is prepared to go and that he is prepared to risk everything to win.
This time, the wording the First Minister used for his sleight of hand flourish in Parliament is an object lesson in his modus operandi.
‘I have a letter’, he declaimed, thrusting it high in the air, ‘from the EU Head of Unit….’
The inference was this was a letter sent to him directly b a senior officer in the EU.
As we now know, the situation was comically different.
But, literally, Mr Salmond did indeed ‘have a letter’ – in his hand.
Every word the First Minister says needs to be carefully decoded with this model in mind. Mr Salmond is not someone to whom a straight bat has any attraction. He is the classic fly boy. Caveat emptor.